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UW Student Receives National Writing Award

April 4, 2011
Woman with dog
University of Wyoming graduate student Katie Schmid is the recipient of an Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for poetry. (Emily Trostel Photo)

Katie Schmid can still recall the first poem she ever wrote: An ode to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to impress a boy in her class.

As a second-grader in Chicago, Ill., Schmid put together the rhyming ode to Santa's lead reindeer during a class writing project. She can't recall what happened to her original piece of work, saying, "I'm pretty sure it was really bad."

"I don't know why I thought he'd be wooed by a poem about a reindeer with a glowing nose, but it worked -- he put a valentine in my locker later that year," Schmid says recalling her venture into writing poems. "I really wanted to be a fiction writer, but I'm not really any good at it -- I just kept writing poems instead."

That early experience led her to what she is today -- an award-winning poet.

The second-year graduate student in the University of Wyoming's MFA creative writing program recently received an Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) award for her latest work, "Daughter Psalms." She is among a group of young writers recognized for the Intro Journals Award in the poetry category.

AWP, the national creative writing professional association, sponsors writing prizes for English undergraduate and graduate students each year. The prize includes publication in a major journal. Schmid's "Daughter Psalms" will be included in the next edition of "Quarterly West."

UW Department of English faculty members nominated Schmid for the prestigious student honor.

"Katie's poems are such models of gorgeous intelligence that they always stop me in my tracks," says Beth Loffreda, UW MFA Program director. "The MFA program is fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a poet of her caliber. The Intro Journal Award is one of AWP's most important prizes for emerging talents like Katie, and I am so happy that AWP has recognized her."

"Daughter Psalms," an 11-page poem, is Schmid's first major award. Kate Northrop, UW Department of English associate professor and Schmid's thesis adviser, is impressed with her student's latest piece.

"'Daughter Psalms' is a poetic sequence of twists and necessary turns, throughout which the speaker attempts both to distance herself from and to come closer to understanding the nature of fathers, father-love," she says. "It is a tough and tender, wildly imaginative, complex love poem -- part myth-making, part song -- a reckoning."

Schmid was published in the University of Pittsburgh's literary journal "Hot Metal Bridge," the "Douglas College's 'Event Magazine'" and in a book anthology "Best New Poets 2009" published by Meridian. She was nominated by well-known poet Kim Addonizio for inclusion in the anthology book.

"I don't write every day. I write a few poems a month. Some aren't good at all. I don't keep volumes of my work. I have a folder on my computer for things that I write in various stages of doneness," she says. "I'm inspired by the inability of normal language to accurately express how people feel. Oftentimes, it's easier for me to write a poem than to talk to someone honestly about what I think."

Schmid came to UW for the MFA in creative writing program after corresponding with Loffreda, Northrop and Harvey Hix, UW English professor.

"All of my interactions through email with them were wonderful. They were really interested in what I was doing as a writer, and I knew the support I would get from the program would be great. It was an easy decision," says Schmid who will return to Illinois after graduation and this summer plans to marry. "I don't have any plans besides that, just to keep writing. UW's MFA is the best choice I could have made. I am a much better reader and writer thanks to the education I have received here."

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